No Country for Old Men (2007)

Rated: R
Length: 122 Minutes
Grade: AFAA=A
Budget: $25 million
Box Office: $74 million US, $79 million Int’l, $31 million DVD

Directed by: Joel and Ethan Coen, who have previously made The Ladykillers, Intolerable Cruelty, O Brother Where Art Thou, Big Lebowski, Fargo, Hudsucker Proxy, Barton Fink, Miller’s Crossing, and Raising Arizona.
Starring: Tommy Lee Jones, Javier Bardem, Josh Brolin, Woody Harrelson, Kelly MacDonald, and Garret Dillahunt.

While out hunting one day, Llewelyn Moss stumbles upon the scene of a major drug deal gone bad and he makes off with a suitcase full of money. Unfortunately for him, a ruthless sociopathic killer is on his trail, while the local sheriff tries to figure out who is killing all these people including one of his deputies.

Entertainment Value: A
It felt a little like a hybrid of Pulp Fiction and Kalifornia, but told at a Tommy Lee Jones pace. In short, it was excellent. You don’t know for sure what’s going to happen, but it’s not going to go just as you wish it would. And the key to this movie being so engaging, of course, are the three lead roles: the wise sherrif, the competent protagonist, and the mercilessly shrewd villain. It was nominated for eight Academy Awards and won four of them for Best Director, Best Picture, Best Screenplay, and Best Supporting Actor. That last one was a lock for Javier Bardem. Only someone with an objection against this kind of movie would dare doubt it deserved everything it won.

Superficial Content: F
Drugs/Alcohol B, Sexuality A, Violence F, Language D, Illegality F
I went back and forth on whether to call this a D or an F, and I almost gave it a D only because I could almost see this movie being shown on network television with some editing. But in the end, I had to give it an F for all the killing, killing, and more brutal violent bloody killing. I admit that may say more about network TV than about this movie. There is also some strong profanity, no sexuality, and some alcohol consumption as well as the premise of the story being about a drug deal gone bad. Certainly, this is rightly R rated, and it is not for kids.

Significant Content: A
The subtitle for this movie is, “There are no clean getaways.” And since the movie itself is far from moralistic, I’ll take that as my cue for the lesson, which is that everyone connected with crime suffers from it eventually, whether they were personally guilty or not. At the risk of giving away too much, I believe the point of this story was to be a story without a point…other than to make us ask questions about ourselves in the watching of it. Efforts to moralize here are a waste of time, in my view. One lesson that comes across, however, is that the notion that horror is new in history is a narcissistic self-delusion. There is no new atrocity under the sun, just naïve golden age revisionism that is shocked only because of its short memory.

Artistic/Thought Value: A
Precisely because of what I’ve just said, I’m compelled to give it an A for art value alone. One of the great strengths of this movie is its restraint in deliberately refusing to show us things we want very badly to see, especially the penultimate scene. The discussions between Chigurh and his victims are ripe with material, as are the commentaries of Sheriff Bell. This is a masterpiece by the Cohen brothers, but not their first.

Discussion Questions:
~What does the coin flipping symbolize? What does Moss mean when she says that the coin does not actually have a say? Did Chigurh kill her or not? Why do you think so, and how does your answer fit with his character? Why did the filmmakers refuse to show us what happens?
~Fatalism is the idea that we have no free will, even our choices are an illusion, and the world is playing itself out just as it must. Discuss whether this movie is fatalistic. Do the choices people make in this movie matter or not?
~Why does Chigurh use the device he does to kill people? What is that meant to symbolize? What is it intended to tell us about such brutality and the psychology of a sociopath? Would you describe him as a hunter?
~In what ways would you say that Chigurh is like Satan? In what ways not? Consider his eloquence and the fact that he doesn’t use profanity. Does Chigurh live by any rules? If so, what are they? Is there any sort of honor in him? Consider his explanation of why he visits Moss.
~One might say that every character in this movie who came in contact with Chigurh played by his rules except for Moss. If Chigurh represents the devil, why is this insight significant? Would you describe her response as a Christlike one?
~Who in this movie is the most terrifying, and why?
~Discuss the varying perspectives from which we see Carson Wells, from the ultra-confident problem-solver to the other ones.
~Is crime these days significantly more deranged than crime used to be? How do you know? How does modern media influence our perception of such a thing? How does the lack of camera footage from the past keep us from accurately perceiving it? Why do we idealize the past? Is this tendency psychologically healthy or unhealthy?
~What does this movie say about the presence of evil in the world and about the possibility of quietly avoiding it?
~In what way might this movie be seen as a metaphor for the current conflict between a civilized Western world and the barbarism of Islamic terror? Consider the way that Sheriff Bell seems to take the entire movie just to come to grips with the reality of the evil he is facing. Also consider the issue of principles in both men.
~Does justice ever occur in the end of this movie? How is that fact relevant to the message it intends to convey?
~Discuss Sheriff Bell’s comments about expecting God to come into his life somehow later in life.
Overall Grade: A
This is a fabulously engrossing movie about evil and horror set against a landscape background that is nothing short of breathtaking.

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